LETTER TO THE YOUTH: What you bring keeps you in the room

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By Kwasi Frimpong

“Who you know gets you through the door but what you know keeps you in the room.” This was a statement from the National Democratic Congress Member of Parliament for Ningo-Prampram, Samuel Nartey George, when he took turn to address the youth at this year’s International Youth Day Conference organised by the National Youth Authority (NYA) at the Alisa Hotel.

I had the glorious opportunity to represent the Graduate Students Association of Ghana (GRASAG) and, for me, this was my take-away from the event.

Calls for access

In the three-day dialogue programme, almost all the youth in the Alisa Hotel Conference room asked for equal opportunities and access for the youth. In a very usual youth conference, many of which I have attended, the youth came with rehearsed vocabularies to impress, show their courage and, most importantly, blame others for not providing access for them.

Like a planned chorus, almost 90 per cent of the participants had one person or the other to blame for their inability to have their voice heard.

The proverbial “the youth is the future” was not missing from the room in all the sections, which had various speakers drawn from academia, politics, media, sports, entertainment, student unions, among others, speaking at different panel discussion segments.

Many of the speakers, especially those not in politics, blamed politicians for blocking the way for the youth to have their voice being heard.

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What do you have?

It is the reason why I was struck by Sam George’s speech of the day. The Ningo-Prampram legislator spoke about a number of issues, agreeing that this very year has been a challenging year for the youth due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

According to Sam George, the coronavirus has come to collapse what he calls the ‘Gig economy’ which employs a larger chunk of the youth.

He defined the ‘Gig economy’ as the type where temporary jobs come, and the youth take advantage to make some living out of it. According to him, the collapse of the ‘gig economy’ has largely affected the youth of the country.

While admitting the dire effect on the youth, the vociferous legislator added that, in the same way, the Covid-19 pandemic has opened a new paradigm for the youth.

Alluding to the biblical “the violent take it by force”, in Matthew 11:12, he urged the youth to seek for the opportunities themselves and come prepared for the opportunity.

The sages have a saying that “one can lead the horse to the river but cannot force it to drink”.  Even in the midst of scarcity, there is still enough for the prepared mind.

As my Chemistry teacher, Mystic we called him, used to say back in the four walls of the prestigious Apam Secondary School, “In the field of rediscovery, success favours the prepared mind”.

I share in Sam George’s position that “from the days of John the Baptist till now, the kingdom of heaven suffers violence and the violent must take it with force”. You must come to the table with something; that is what our village “nnoboa” policy says.

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Back in the days at Twifo Heman, when we are going for ‘ntay3’ (cooking together as a group), what you woule bring onboard woule determine whether the group would accept you to be a part of it or not.

If the youth do not want to be part of what Dr Alidu Seidu, a lecturer at the University of Ghana, who was also on the panel at the conference defines as ‘non-participation or tokenism’ group, but want to be a part of the ‘control/ownership’ group, then they must come with something in hand and in mind.

Getting something

A sermon I hold dear to my heart is titled “Go borrow vessels”. In that sermon, Pastor Mensa Otabil, General Overseer of the International Central Gospel Church (ICGC), urges the youth to go and borrow vessels. “Then Elisha said, Go, borrow thee vessels abroad of all thy neighbours, even empty vessels; borrow not a few,” (2Kings 4:3 KJV).

The Revered Minister explains vessels as what we learn from people, a means of preparing to meet opportunity.

Learning new skills, becoming adaptive to the changing trend of the world, necessity they say is the mother of invention, taking advantage of ‘emptiness’ to be creative and innovative, providing out-of-the-box solutions through deep thinking is what will keep you in the room.

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“You can be the president’s child and the president may order for you to be given an opportunity, but if you add nothing relevant to the discussion, you will be kicked out,” says Sam George. I add that even if you won’t be kicked out, you will see your ‘uselessness’ since no one will involve an ‘empty head’ in any serious issue.

As GRASAG General Secretary, I have called for the involvement of the youth in national issues. In a statement I released under the authority of the National Executive Committee (NEC) and my president, Samuel Sagoe, on International Youth Day, I stated: “We want to be given the opportunity to contribute to the development of our nation. We are energized. We are talented. Use our energy and talent purposefully for the socio-economic development of the country.”

While calling for such inclusion, I also urge the youth to bring something to the table.

I repeat that even in the midst of scarcity, there is abundant for the prepared mind. “The fool is only thirsty in the abundance of water”, says the legendary Robert Nesta (Bob) Marley.

This is a special letter to my colleagues, the youth. Let us prepare ourselves and prove our mettle that we have something to offer and present what we have to the table.

 

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